Car question

I commute to work by bus. With the snow we’ve had lately, I have been driving even less than I normally do. If I do drive, it’s almost always short trips to the grocery store.

I tried to start my car (a 2004 Honda Civic) up last night, and it seemed the battery was low. I called AAA to jump-start it, and they did. After he started it, the AAA guy said I would need to go to a shop and get my battery recharged. I tried going to the shop he recommended, but they were closed.

I drove around for about 40 minutes after my car got jump-started. I asked the AAA guy if running the car for a while would be enough to charge the battery, and he said it wouldn’t. When I’ve had to have a car jump-started in the past, that was sufficient (except for the time I needed a new battery).

My question is, do you think driving around for 40 minutes after having the car jump-started will have been enough to recharge the battery, or am I going to have to go through all this again the next time I try to start the car? If it won’t be enough, why won’t it?

I also got stuck in the snow trying to get the car back into my garage, and had the “low gas” light come on while I was trying to get unstuck. Hopefully, I will be able to make it to a gas station next time I drive the car…

If the problem is that your battery won’t hold a charge, then driving around won’t help you much. A good battery shouldn’t discharge that much even with only short trips. Winter cold obviously makes it worse. How old is your battery? If it’s 4 year or older, you’re probably due for a new one.

If that’s not it, I’m not clear on the difference between charging the battery from the alternator vs charging it via a battery charger. I would think they should be equally effective but I’ll defer to people who know cars.

I agree, unless the battery is bad, driving around should do the trick.

That is a concern. I told AAA that I might need a new battery, since my battery is original to the car. But the guy didn’t seem to think I needed a new one.

The AAA guy sounds like he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Your car’s alternator charges your battery while you are driving. As long as your battery is able to take and hold a charge, the alternator should be able to do it. Taking it to an auto shop to be charged would just do what the alternator does, but more quickly. If your battery is getting old and is losing its ability to hold a charge…taking it in to be charged on a charger will not correct that.

Have your tried starting your car again, since driving it around for 40 minutes?

Your battery is 6 years old. That’s beyond the normal life of a car battery. It’s time for a new one, especially since yours has already demonstrated that it’s having a hard time holding a charge. Not sure what the AAA guy was talking about.

I thought I would need a new battery. Mr. Neville and I were arguing about this the other night. He said this is just because I haven’t been driving the car much. I said it’s because the battery will be 6 years old in April, and is probably due to be replaced.

AAA will sell you a new battery (at least where I live, they will), and I was hoping the AAA guy would sell me one and install it for me right at home, no muss, no fuss.

Given the age of the battery, and the fact that you’ve already had a problem with its being low on charge, it would be very wise to replace the battery. If its being low was because of a weak battery, you’re done. If it was low because of some other problem (excessive parasitic drain, weak alternator) it will need that repaired as well, but still the battery’s reliability is questionable. The inconvenience and cost of a no-start far outweighs the meager savings of a few more month’s use of the battery.

Alternators are designed to top up a battery’s charge after starting, and maintain the charge while driving (including using lights, wipers, etc.). They are not designed to recharge batteries that have gotten significantly low on charge – that what battery chargers are designed to do. Using the alternator to recharge a battery runs the risk of a) never achieving a full state of charge and b) overtaxing the alternator and shortening its life. Not to say that it’s always a problem, but it certainly can be a problem. When a battery has gotten low enough to not start, using a charger is a better choice than relying on the alternator.

What this here fella said. My car is a 2005 and I don’t use it every day, either - last tune-up my mechanic said my battery was showing signs of wearing out. Next time I go to start the car and it doesn’t start, I get a new battery that day. Come to think of it, I should probably just replace it now - Murphy’s Law being what it is, it won’t start when I actually need to go somewhere.

Short answer - yes, you need a new battery.

If the run-down wasn’t due to my own stupidity such as leaving headlights on with the engine off, a battery gets one–and only one–jump start before I head for my “battery guy” for a new one.